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'Medical issue' for Kessel

Channel 4 report says Bruin has cancer

WILMINGTON -- In his rookie season, Phil Kessel had never betrayed any sign of failing health.

But yesterday, the 19-year-old forward from Madison, Wis., was not at Bruins practice at Ristuccia Arena. Instead, he was being treated for a non-hockey medical condition, according to a statement released by the Kessel family via the Bruins.

"Phil Kessel is being treated today for a medical issue not related to hockey," the statement read. "At this time there is no further update on Phil's condition. When there is an update, and it is appropriate to do so, we will update everyone on Phil's health."

Channel 4 led its 11 p.m. newscast last night with a Steve Burton report that Kessel was in Massachusetts General Hospital and had been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Rumors circulated all day that Kessel had been hospitalized for any number of reasons, including testicular cancer or depression.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, when reached by the Globe at approximately 9 p.m., dismissed the notion that Kessel's issues were drug- or alcohol-related, but when asked if he cared to address whether Kessel had been diagnosed with either testicular cancer or depression, Chiarelli offered only, "No, I don't."

Kessel did not travel with the team yesterday to Montreal, and he will not play tonight against the Canadiens.

"The only thing I can say is that he's not available for the trip," coach Dave Lewis said. "He's not coming on the trip and he won't play. I'm not going to talk about Phil much more than that."

Lewis didn't have any comment when asked if he could guess at the length of Kessel's absence. Chiarelli said the club will determine at a later date whether Kessel will be placed on injured reserve.

"I just want to make it clear that it's not drug- or alcohol-related," Chiarelli said. "But out of respect for the family's wishes, I can't say more. Hopefully, we'll get some clarity in short order, which could mean this week.

"We all were [surprised], personally and collectively. But this happens in all walks of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Phil and his family. We'll support him along the way and work our way through it.

"There's a bunch of strong character guys on this team on and off the ice. Phil is a strong, young individual and he's got a strong family. All those will be factors in getting him through this."

Kessel, the fifth overall pick of the 2006 draft, is one of eight Bruins who played in all 27 games so far this season, alternating between wing and center. Kessel had five goals and four assists, scoring one power-play goal while drawing four penalty minutes.

He spent last year at the University of Minnesota as a freshman, collecting 51 points in 39 games.

Kessel, who was playing mostly on the fourth line recently and seeing power-play time on the second unit, skated several shifts during the third period of Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Devils on the No. 1 line with Marc Savard and Glen Murray.

Wade Arnott, Kessel's agent, was contacted yesterday but said he did not have time to comment. Kessel's teammates, sticking to his family's wishes, did not discuss the nature of the rookie's condition but voiced their support in his recovery.

"He's a kid," said goalie Tim Thomas. "Any medical issues are tough, especially at that age. They're tough at any age. He's got a lot on his plate: first-round pick, spending his first year in the NHL. Then to have a little medical issue, it's one more thing and it's got to be hard to handle. We have to stay and offer our support and make him feel as good as possible."

Despite his youth, Kessel has established close ties with Savard and Shean Donovan, two of the veterans on the roster. Kessel and Savard are roommates on the road. Donovan resides one town over from Kessel, who has been living with a host family, and the two have often driven to and from practice together.

Earlier this season, Donovan noted that Kessel, who had just purchased a new truck, picked him up for practice. Kessel jokingly insisted that Donovan wait for him at the end of his driveway because the rookie didn't want to scratch his truck.

"You just support him," Donovan said. "That's all you do. He's a great kid. Just support him. We can't wait until he gets back. It was all of a sudden for us, but we'll get through and we're looking forward to having him back."

Because of Kessel's absence, the Bruins recalled Yan Stastny from Providence and will use him in Kessel's fourth-line spot.

"The important thing is health," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "He has to take care of a few things. We fully understand. We want to let him and his family deal with it. When it's time to be more specific, we will."

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